Looking at Church Art: The Mother of God

I was blessed to be able to travel last summer, visiting southern Germany and Poland. It was a wonderful trip.  My husband is not one for museums, but we saw so much beautiful artwork in the churches of both countries. There were images from as early as the 11th century through our times.  They were painted on panels, fresco’d on walls, created as mosaics, carvings, sculptures–truly marvelous to see!

I noticed how different the “typical” images were in Europe vs the United States.  Most often in the U.S.–at least in the western regions where I have lived–the images of Mary, most often portrayed her as the Immaculate Conception or Our Lady of Lourdes.  Also very popular were Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Guadalupe. These images are everywhere: in churches, homes, gardens, holy cards–and even in miniature, stamped onto rosary beads.

4 images on blue blog

Throughout the Polish and Alpine German areas, There were also images of the Mother of God in churches, shrines, gardens, and on public buildings.  The images seen most often were from the Book of Revelations, like these:

098 OL from Revelations

modern statue inside Krakow church

020 bldg corner Jesuit courtyard madonna

on the exterior of a public building near the Jesuit Church


and as Our Lady of Sorrows, pierced by swords, such as these:

207 Pieta detail

at foot of the cross, Partenkirchen, Germany

132 altar statues

Cathedral in Bischofweisen, Germany

24 OL of Sorrows

Cathedral in Munich

029 OL of sorrows wooded statue

Local church in Partenkirchen, Germany

and as Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, often holding the Christ Child.

119 great medieval Mary & Child

Bischofweisen, Germany

257 wood altarpiece coronation of Mary w saints

Medieval altar carving in Gdansk, Poland

325 madonna painting diff angle better color

Medieval egg tempera painting in cathedral in Gdansk, Poland

126 tryptich

16th century carving Berlin, Germany

There were also many statues of “The Pieta”, with this one shown below in a side altar in the Cathedral in Gdansk, Poland.

237 Pieta close up

I am not enough of an expert to speculate as to the hows or whys, but found these cultural differences fascinating.  Only Our Lady of Guadalupe had some resemblance to the European types, in coloring of garments and depiction of strength.  I’d love some insights, if you care to comment.


About reinkat

I am an iconographer, and have been studying Russian/Greek icons since 1995. I'm married with 3 children. I love hiking, camping, animals, my family and church--and icons.
This entry was posted in art, Catholic icons, Catholicism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Looking at Church Art: The Mother of God

  1. Dan B says:

    Hello, I’m interested in using your 2013 Annunciation icon for the cover of my book about the historical Jesus. Could you please contact me to discuss? Thank you!
    God Bless,

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